Thoughts to Ponder

Salvation - Beginning or End?

I have mentioned before that I believe we are preaching a feel good gospel in churches today. We tell people of God's love for them and how He will save them if they will only ask Him to. We tell them that all they have to do is believe that Jesus is the Son of God and their sins will be forgiven. There is nothing wrong with that teaching, as far as it goes, but that is the problem, that is as far as it goes all too often.

People who come to Christ through this type of message have often never heard about their responsibility before God, or His demands of them. In fact some of you might be surprised to hear that God makes demands on those who choose to follow Jesus Christ.

The reason people would be surprised is because they have been taught that salvation is the end. It is the end of their responsibility. It is the end of their debt. It is the end of their problems before God. This is the feel good gospel, but it is not the gospel that Jesus taught, nor the gospel that the Apostles taught. We have watered down what it means to be saved and made it appealing to the masses. Freedom from the wrath of God with no strings attached.

If anyone like me dares to speak out about this subject they are quickly relegated to the 'legalism' trash heap. I am not teaching legalism, I am teaching the gospel. You won't hear me say that you must tithe or you will go to hell, or that you will go to hell if you listen to anything other then old hymns, but I am saying that salvation is the beginning and not the end.

It is the beginning of a new life in Christ, but with that new life comes new responsibilities. Anyone who has not heard this needs to go and read their Bible, because it is plainly stated in God's word. Over and over God's word warns us and guides us, yet many people just ignore those warnings and guide posts and believe what they want to believe.

They want to believe that once they are saved nothing more matters, they have their ticket to heaven punched and no one or nothing can stop them from getting to heaven. As I have stated before there are those who teach that a person can be saved and never follow Christ. This is not biblical.

There are people who claim you don't have to live a holy life after coming to Christ. They claim it is a good thing to do so, because you will be rewarded for it, but it is not necessary. This too is not biblical.

When will we wake up and start preaching the truth? I would rather have one person in church who is being taught the truth then thousands who come back week after week but learn nothing and never progress in their relationship with Christ.

So you know where I get this teaching from, let me quote a few passages which show our responsibilities after salvation:

(Matthew 18:23-35 NIV) [23] "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. [24] As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. [25] Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
[26] "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' [27] The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
[28] "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.
[29] "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
[30] "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. [31] When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
[32] "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. [33] Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' [34] In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
[35] "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

How many unforgiving Christians are there in our churches, who think that they are right with the Lord? I hate to think how many there might be, because this is not taught as a responsibility in our churches. Some don't teach it because it would undermine their doctrine of eternal security, others don't teach it because it might make people feel uncomfortable.

(John 15:6 NIV) If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

We are commanded to remain in Christ. What does that mean? It means to continue to follow Him. That too is seldom taught in churches today. It might upset someone to know that for the rest of their lives they must follow Christ.

(Galatians 6:8-9 NIV) [8] The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. [9] Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

We are to live to please the Spirit. If we don't, we can expect destruction. This is something that people should be taught, it is important.

(1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV) [15] But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; [16] for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

(Hebrews 12:14 NIV) Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Holiness is not just a nice thing to do, it is the only way we will see the Lord. That is not legalism, it is our responsibility. I believe it is also our responsibility to teach people this. Make no mistake here, you do not get your sins forgiven by living a holy life. Our sins are forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, but if we do not teach that after that outpouring of grace from God it is our responsibility to change and live holy lives, we are harming people eternally.

Read this next passage very carefully:

(Matthew 25:31-46 NIV) [31] "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. [32] All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. [33] He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
[34] "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. [35] For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, [36] I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
[37] "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? [38] When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? [39] When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
[40] "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
[41] "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. [42] For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, [43] I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
[44] "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
[45] "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
[46] "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

There are a couple very important points in this passage. Most people just take the sheep and the goats to mean believers and non-believers, but don't be too quick to jump to that conclusion. Notice that the goats in this passage call Jesus, Lord. Now also notice that when Jesus commends the sheep, He commends them for helping other believers. Then when He accuses the goats, He accuses them of not helping other believers.

You can come to two different conclusions from this passage. You can conclude that those who profess to be Christians but do not have compassion for other believers were never really believers in the first place. Or you can come to the conclusion that true believers who never show compassion to other believers will be lost. For our study, I don't care which side you fall on, because the result is the same. If you don't have compassion on other believers and care about them you will not spend eternity in heaven!

There are hurting people in many churches today and they are ignored because of those very problems. There are people who have lost jobs. There are people who are in need of food or clothing or maybe just a loving shoulder to lean on. Yet those people are often shunned by the general public in the churches, because they have so many problems. There are people throughout the world who are being killed and imprisoned for their faith and the church in the United States does not want to be bothered by their suffering. The church can't find the time to pray for them, or write letters to their public representatives on their behalf.

The church as a whole does not want to get its hands dirty, and you know that is what happens when you try to help people who have problems. Folks, wake up, that is Christ that you are not willing to help. It is Christ that you are not willing to pray for or write letters in support of. It is Christ who is hungry and thirsty and in prison. We call Him Lord but it is meaningless. We claim we love Him, but it is meaningless, unless we are willing to put it into action.

He needs a job and we pretend we don't notice. He needs a ride to work because His car is broken down and we pretend not to notice. He is hungry and we pretend not to notice, after all there are plenty of soup kitchens in all our cities! He needs a baby sitter because He is a single parent who needs to get away for just a little while, but we pretend not to notice. He needs the compassion of a fellow believer but we pretend not to notice, He might cling to us, then what would we do? He is sick in the hospital and we are too busy to visit, or to check and see if there are things which He can't do, which need to be taken care of for Him.

Jesus made another statement that is important to remember:

(Mark 10:29-30 NIV) [29] "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel [30] will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields-and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life."

We are to be the fulfillment of this passage. When a person who is a believer loses everything, they should not have to worry, because they should have a hundred times as much offered, but sadly that seldom happens.

If a CEO or an executive gets laid off or loses his job there are many people who will try to help him. But what about the poor blue collar worker who gets laid off or loses his job? Where is the same outpouring of compassion and help? James addresses this very idea here:

(James 2:1-4 NIV) [1] My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. [2] Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. [3] If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," [4] have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
 
When we are willing to help one brother over another because of their means or their status we are showing our evil hearts. We will answer one day for these actions and from what I read in Scripture the result could be much worse then just the loss of rewards.

We need to start preaching the whole gospel. We need to start carrying out the great commission:

(Matthew 28:18-20 NIV) [18] Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

You can't preach the true gospel or make true disciples unless you teach that they must follow the commandments that Christ gave us. There may be some people who reject this gospel because it is too hard, but what good is it to believe the feel good gospel if it won't get you into the Kingdom of Heaven?

We should teach that salvation is the beginning and not the end in itself. This is exactly why Jesus made this statement:

(Luke 14:25-35 NIV) [25] Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: [26] "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple. [27] And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
[28] "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? [29] For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, [30] saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
[31] "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? [32] If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. [33] In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
[34] "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? [35] It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Jesus did not mince words, He said what He meant and He meant what He said. He did not preach a feel good gospel, He preached a gospel of self denial and suffering, and selflessness. If we truly have ears that is what we will hear, otherwise we have believed in vain.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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September 2003